Lincoln Journal Star: Editorial, 8/4: Political Discourse Must Return to Civility

Aug 4, 2017
In The News

Recent events involving the state’s congressional delegation have been woefully short on Nebraska nice.

Rep. Jeff Fortenberry’s town halls in Lincoln were overshadowed by angry protests, interruptions shouted from the crowd and at least one large-scale walkout. Earlier this summer, a sign with a vulgarity was placed in his yard. Within the last three weeks, both of Nebraska’s United States senators reported finding fake blood smeared on the doors of their Lincoln offices.

Civil discourse isn’t dead, but it seems to be in increasingly limited supply in the U.S. Nebraska, which prides itself on Midwestern hospitality and kindness, appears to be suffering from the same shortage of polite, productive conversation to move the state and country forward.

Disagreeing with the stances, actions and votes of elected officials isn’t wrong. In this very space, we do it, too. That’s one of the perks of American democracy; dissenting speech and actions are protected in the Constitution despite not being guaranteed to far too many global citizens.

But with this great power comes the great responsibility of expressing deeply held opinions in a diplomatic manner.

Extreme partisanship is stubbornness, but it’s being worn as a badge of honor. Outrageous stunts, incendiary claims and outright lies get attention. In such an era, being kind to political opponents can be difficult.

To regain the civility we desire, we must return to our roots, remembering that all of us stand beneath the same flags first and foremost. Regardless of whether one claims to be a Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal or any other political identifier, every single one of us is an American and a Nebraskan – both points of pride that trump political affiliation.

When that’s established, it’s easier to work toward a common goal – despite a multitude of paths by which it can be achieved. Accordingly, plenty of people lean on civil means to express opinions to their elected officials. Need some suggestions?

Call or email their offices. Testify before local and state governments. Write a letter to the editor. Organize or participate in a peaceful protest or rally. Campaign for a candidate. Run for office yourself. Above all, exercise your right to vote.

These are just a few ways to create change in government. The rants, threats and vandalism seen recently in Nebraska accomplish nothing but increasing the difficulty of working together in pursuit of a shared result – which is the only way to effectively govern at any level.

Public participation remains a vital component in every step of the political process. But the most effective way to convey a message is through civil means, something Nebraskans must remember – and practice – to stay productive and above the fray in this charged political environment. 

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